As the founder of a popular support site for bottle-feeding parents, I often hear from many parents who worry that a piece of plastic and silicone will get in the way of bonding with their baby.
Breastfeeding is a lovely way to bond, and of course being the sole source of nutrition for your growing infant creates a special relationship between the two of you. But bonding with your child doesn't require working mammary glands. If it did, how would adopted children bond with their parents? What would that say about a father's connection with his child? And how to reconcile the belief that nursing is the only way to create a "true" bond with examples of the unique and powerful relationships between some grandparents and grandchildren?
A bottle does not interfere with bonding. For many women who have had difficulty nursing, a bottle is what alleviates stress and worry, pain and disappointment, freeing them to be emotionally present for their baby. Bonds happen between people – with individual emotional landscapes, individual anatomy, and individual situations. The way you bond with your child doesn't have to be the same way another mother bonds with hers.
Which is why I was ecstatic when a few members of the Fearless Formula Feeder community came up with the idea for a #bottlebonding hashtag. My Facebook feed quickly filled up with gorgeous images of moms, dads, siblings, aunts, and grandparents feeding babies with obvious, unadulterated love.
I was also grateful – because I can tell a struggling new mom that her inability to breastfeed does not make her any less bonded to her child until I'm blue in the face, but she needs evidence. So maybe she will see these images and believe her own eyes. The babies in these photos are bonded. They are held. They are cuddled. They are cherished. They are loved. And no amount of plastic and silicone can get in the way of that.